After 14 months of organizational meetings, employes in Arlington's Crystal City high-rise corridor expect to open the doors of a new parent-founded day care center in May in one of the minicity's residential buildings.
"This is very important to us," said Jessie Marshall, chairman of the Crystal City Working Parents Inc., cooperative, which won County Board approval last week to open a day care center for 82 children in the Crystal House I apartment building at 1900 S. Eads St.
"What it does, especially for working parents, is give them peace of mind," said Marshall, an attorney with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. "For one thing, you know your child is nearby when you're working."
"Because it's set up as a parent cooperative," she continued, "you also have a first-hand effect on what your child is doing every day. You can see your child at lunch and, if the child gets sick, you can be there in a couple of minutes."
The day care center will be one of very few in the heart of Arlington's burgeoning employment centers, where the demand for day care services far exceeds the supply. It is also one of the few in Arlington founded by parents instead of independent operators, although the parents have hired a professional staff to run the center, which will enroll children aged 2 to 5 between 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. weekdays.
"This is a model which is going to become more and more prevalent," said County Board member Ellen M. Bozman, at whose request the board has established a special advisory committee on ways to meet the nearly insatiable demand for such centers in Arlington. She said a similar facility is being studied for the Ballston area.
The center's creation was made possible following negotiations with the Charles E. Smith Co., which agreed to set aside a 4,200-square-foot wing in its building for the center.
Scott Sterling, a lawyer for the Smith firm, said the company did so because it "has always worked to put together an integrated minicity, and one of the services needed in Crystal City is a day care center."
Sterling and Marshall said talks began 14 months ago under the auspices of Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who is a member of the House select committee on children, youth and families. Sterling said Wolf wanted the parents, many of whom are federal employes, to explore a private venture instead of seeking government help to open a center.
Shortly afterwards, talks began with the Smith Co., and members of the County Board, including John G. Milliken, a Democrat who is seeking to unseat Wolf this fall.
Calling the parent-founded center an "important initiative," Milliken asked for a staff report on various local and federal tax incentives that could lead to the opening of similar facilities. He cited, as an example, assessing the space set aside for child care centers in commercial or residential buildings differently from the rest of the building.
"Some federal tax incentives are under assault," he added. "If they're changed, the county may want to be of some help."